By Mark Nelson Herald Writer
After a physical game against Minnesota that featured a bench-clearing brawl and the end of their six-game winning streak, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Washington Stealth.
Washington welcomes defending National Lacrosse League champion Calgary to Comcast Arena tonight for the second tilt of a three-game season series.
The Roughnecks, fresh off a 10-8 win Sunday over the East Division-leading Toronto Rock, are back on solid ground following a wobbly start to the season that included a 16-15 loss to the Stealth on Jan. 23 in Calgary.
After opening with a 1-3 record, Calgary (3-3) has won two straight to climb into a tie for the No. 2 spot in the West Division behind Washington (6-1).
“It was a solid team effort, it was one of those character-building wins,” Dave Pym, Calgary’s first-year head coach, said of the Roughnecks’ win over Toronto. “We’re happy to be taking a step forward from that.”
Tracey Kelusky, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound forward, led Calgary with six points (three goals, three assists), and 6-foot forward Jeff Shattler scored two crucial fourth-quarter goals and collected a team-high nine loose balls.
Prior to beating Toronto, Calgary defeated Edmonton 13-8.
“We’re literally jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire,” Pym said of going from playing the Rock to West Division-leading Washington. “It’s going to be another challenge for us.”
The Stealth’s Lewis Ratcliff had six goals and three assists Jan. 23 in Washington’s win at Calgary.
After Washington blew a 6-1 lead in the second quarter, Ratcliff and Luke Wiles came up with goals late in the fourth quarter to give Washington the hard-fought victory. It was and still is the only time the Stealth have been beaten in the face-off circle this season (Calgary won 18 of 35 draws).
The Stealth, however, are trying to work out some injury-related defensive issues following a rough 16-12 road loss to Minnesota that spoiled their undefeated record. The 16 goals were the most allowed by the Stealth this season.
Washington waived transition player Steve McKinlay, who was called up last week to take injured defender Kyle Sorensen’s spot, and added 6-foot-1 rookie defender Chris O’Dougherty to the roster from the practice squad.
O’Dougherty, a Kinnelon, N.J., native, adds defensive depth to a unit that has lost defenders Sorensen, Travis Gillespie and Brett Manney to injuries.
“We’re still in a bit of a scramble,” Stealth head coach Chris Hall said of his defense. “Sorensen obviously is a big part of our defense, Manney might be back (against Calgary) if he get doctor’s clearance. That’ll be a welcome addition.”
Calgary has a “great offense,” Hall said, which puts all that much more pressure on Washington’s short-handed defense.
“Defensively, we need to improve,” Hall said. “In the last couple games it has been an area where we need to (get better).”